I think there is a MAJOR difference between Autism in books and novels and “real” Autism. For instance, one of, if not the most famous book about Autism, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, is fictional. I actually didn’t know that until I did a little research on it. Don’t get me wrong…it’s still a good book, but I think it sort of over glamorizes Autism, if that makes any sense. The main character is very interested in obscure facts and lives in his own little world. Now if that sounds familiar, I can relate. BUT he is also sort of slow at understanding things like when the neighbor beats around the bush about something important to the story line. Of Mice and Men is another example of this. Lenny is never mentioned as having Autism or a disability, but because of his actions and mannerisms, it is sort of implied. He is lower-functioning Autistic and low-verbal. For lack of a better word, “dumb”. He is constantly getting into trouble for stuff he does not see as “wrong”. He and his partner–or maybe even caretaker–George is a regular person who is constantly sticking up for Lenny since Lenny cannot advocate for himself. The book takes place during the Depression and is one of my all-time favorite books. But again, I think it might be portraying Autism (if that is what Lenny has) as worse than it often is. I know there are some “Lenny”s out there, and that is OK. But me being the advocate I am, I do not want people getting the wrong idea because of a classic John Steinbeck book or a more modern book by Mark Haddon. They are good books, but they are just that…BOOKS! Now are there books that accurately portray Autism? Mmm…not that I can think of. All the books that talk honestly and candidly about Autism were written by people on the Spectrum and only talk about themselves. There is no manual or Encyclopedia Britannica about Autism and how to handle it. If there were, it’d probably be denounced anyway. Autism in reality is so varied that any depiction of Autism in the media–whether it be TV, books, movies, magazines, whatever–no matter how accurate they seem to one person on the Spectrum, is bound to piss off another person on the Spectrum or their loved ones. Books have varied views on different topics, depending on who wrote it. Me? I tried writing a book awhile back, but ultimately stopped because 1) it was too intensive and brought up some old wounds I thought were healed, and 2) I realized I was this close to generalizing. That is the last thing I want to do. So when and if you read Of Mice and Men or Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, be prepared for a great book, but also just remember that it is just fiction. I cannot accurately depict Autism and I am on the Spectrum! Honestly, I don’t think anybody can do that. Not even Steven Spielberg or George Lucas, and they can do no wrong…except for selling the rights to Star Wars to Disney, but that’s a post for another day. I think there are some great movies about Autism out there, but they are not “real”. They might be based on true stories or on a real person’s life, but quite often it’s Hollywood and dramatized.
Now having said that, am I pissed that people are writing books and screenplays and scripts about Autism? No. Not necessarily. I can appreciate what they are trying to do. If you make a movie about Autism or Downs Syndrome or any disability and the General Public don’t know enough about the subject or wanna learn more, they’re going to Google it and that in itself raises awareness. I like the fact these TV shows and books and movies exist, don’t get me wrong, but I think it’s almost a win-lose situation. Yes they are damn good movies, shows, and books…BUT what holds true for one person on the Spectrum isn’t necessarily true for the next person in line.
I want to know what you think of this subject and whether you agree or disagree with me. Thanks for reading!